Dean Robbins


Wisconsin Historical Society

The longtime Isthmus writer died on Wednesday. He put the “alternative” in “alternative weekly newspaper” and will be remembered for his many contributions to our town. Read more

News 4 Comments

Abraham Lincoln was born Feb. 12th, 1809. While he's most commonly associated with the state to our south, writer Dean Robbins tells us the little-known story of Lincoln's 1859 visit to Wisconsin. Read more

TV & Video 1 Comments

In the 1980s, I lived near a tiny theater in downtown Madison called Ark Improv. A comedian named Chris Farley performed in this converted garage, and the place seemed way too small for him. Read more


In 1967, the 26-year-old rhythm-and-blues singer Otis Redding died in Madison's Lake Monona when his plane crashed en route to a concert here. Madison has not taken this piece of music history lightly. Read more


I always think about Orson Welles this time of year. For me, Halloween is associated with his "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast, which caused a national panic on October 30, 1938. Read more

A & E

"Jane the Virgin" has fun with telenovela conventions. Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is an ordinary young woman swept up in extraordinary events when she's accidentally inseminated during a routine exam. Read more

TV & Video

A voiceover sets the scene: "Andrew and Zelda dated for eight months, three weeks, five days and one hour. This television program is the comprehensive account of their relationship, from "A to Z"." The framing device makes A to Z feel like a story told after the fact, exaggerated for comic effect. Read more

TV & Video

Andre (Anthony Anderson) is a self-described former "big scary black guy" who's made it in the white world. He's a successful advertising executive who lives in the suburbs with his doctor wife (Tracee Ellis Ross) and four kids. But Andre has the nagging feeling that, in achieving the American dream, he and the family have lost their black identity. Read more

TV & Video

Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, "Red Band Society" is the first masterpiece of the fall TV season. Nevertheless, it features a premise that practically screams "don't watch this." A half-dozen very sick kids live together in a hospital. Read more

TV & Video

Ken Burns, PBS's favorite documentarian, has long specialized in taking the fun out of great American subjects (jazz, baseball, Mark Twain). His latest, "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History", is less a tribute to President Teddy Roosevelt, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt than to Burns himself. Read more

TV & Video

Critics have dutifully fallen in line for Cinemax's "The Knick", an arty period hospital drama that makes its points with buckets of blood. I recommend a more enjoyable period hospital drama: "Breathless on Masterpiece Mystery!". Read more

TV & Video


Apple Corps

Sept. 4 is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' one and only appearance in Wisconsin. This was the band's first American tour, at the height of Beatlemania, and hundreds of fans showed up to greet them at Milwaukee's Mitchell Field. But the 80 police officers on hand spoiled everybody's fun by arranging for the plane to land far away from the crowd. Read more


"Houdini" begins with a striking image of the escape artist Harry Houdini (Adrien Brody) perched on a bridge, shackled, as he works up the nerve to jump into the icy water below. The first sound we hear is a ghostly woman's voice whispering, "Harry, can you hear me?" We have no idea where the voice is coming from or what the words mean, but it immediately establishes a dreamlike quality for this ambitious miniseries. Read more

TV & Video


Kaley McKean

I was going to start talking about the overrated shows nominated for this year's Emmy Awards, as I don't understand why critics have fallen for "Masters of Sex", "Homeland" and "Boardwalk Empire". But I got sidetracked by the much bigger list of nominated shows that are among the wonders of the world. Read more

TV & Video

Martin Odum (Sean Bean) is a CIA agent who transforms himself into a different person for each undercover job. For example, he goes to great lengths to style himself as a creepy outsider to infiltrate a domestic terrorist group, masking his British accent with a stutter. "Legends" keeps you on the edge of your seat as Martin tries not to blow his cover under tremendous pressure. Read more

TV & Video

At first glance, "Jersey Belle" comes on like one of those housewife reality series everyone loves to hate. Jaime is a brash Jersey girl with an Italian/Jewish heritage who follows her husband to a high-society suburb in Alabama. You brace yourself for the usual inanities, but Jaime proves an unusually interesting subject. Read more

TV & Video

In the reality series "#RichKids of Beverly Hills", the rich kids aren't icky in that Kardashian way. They're smart and self-aware, even self-mocking at times. As a result, you don't laugh at them, but with them. Read more

TV & Video

Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) returns to "Masterpiece Mystery!" with his waxed mustache, three-piece suit and formal manner -- so formal that he even refers to himself in the third person. Read more

TV & Video

Finally, after a summer's worth of awful new sitcoms, I'm laughing again. In "Married", Russ (Nat Faxon) and Lina (Judy Greer) are a once-happy couple weighed down by three kids. Russ is frustrated by their nonexistent sex life, and Lina is frustrated by everything else. Read more

TV & Video


Prudence Kashik

When I moved to Madison in the 1980s, it was a hot spot for alternative weekly newspapers. Myself, I liked the one with the funny name -- "Isthmus" -- but there were plenty of other choices, like "City Lights" and "Free for All". Who would have predicted that the one with the funny name would survive them all and prosper into the 21st century? Read more

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